Munsie laboratory: Ethical, legal and social implications of stem cell research

Research Overview

The broad aim of ELSI is to improve understanding of legal, ethical and social issues associated with stem cell science and regenerative medicine. Our innovative program involves rigorous empirical research to underpin the development of evidence-based engagement, education and awareness initiatives as well as to inform national and international policy responses to key issues.

Stem cells, as an exemplar of regenerative medicine and new and emerging technologies more broadly, carry huge potential and promise for those suffering debilitating and often life threatening diseases and conditions for which there is presently no cure. However, how stem cell science develops and research involving stem cells is conducted has myriad social, legal and ethical implications. How current and potential issues in the field are framed, understood and addressed has the potential to improve or threaten scientific progress and patient safety. Successful engagement with the social, ethical and legal issues raised by stem cells also requires constructive dialogue within and across a wide range of stakeholder groups including the scientific community, patient groups, patient advocacy groups, health professionals, industry, regulatory bodies and government. The research groups work is committed to enhancing understanding of the views and experiences of different stakeholder groups, and informing the development of improved professional standards in research and clinical practice for stem cell scientists, clinicians and healthcare practitioners to augment legitimate efforts in Australia to translate promising stem cell-based research into effective and safe therapies.

To this end, we are currently investigating  the experiences and views of people contemplating and undertaking experimental stem cell treatments; the information needs of people with a range of conditions about stem cell science; the ethics of research with and technological development of different stem cells (i.e. organoids); regulatory response to and professional standards in the marketing and provision of experimental stem cell treatments; and, community perceptions, expectations and experiences of clinical trials involving stem cells.

Our program of work is interdisciplinary and we welcome inquiries from Honours students and PhD candidates from a range of disciplinary backgrounds (including from science, medicine, public health, sociology, bio-ethics, law and regulation, and science and technology studies) who are interested in investigating issues associated with stem cell science and regenerative medicine.


Dr Christopher Rudge, Research Fellow
Dr Sian Supski, Research Fellow
Katerina Mitsinikos, Research Assistant
Saed Fahd, Research Assistant
Colleen Corrigan, Intern
Georgia Carney, Honours student


Dr Claire Tanner, Monash University


ARC: "Stem Cells Australia"

Research Outcomes

  • Munsie M, Juttner C and Herbert K (2015 plus previous editions) The Australian Stem Cell Handbook. The National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia (Melbourne, Australia).
  • Munsie M et al. The development of an interactive consent process that utilises a video to help increase informed consent among iPSC research participants.  
    Available at:  
  • Co-authored website content for organisations including: International Society for Stem Cell Research; EuroStemCell; Stem Cells Australia; Australian Academy of Science NOVA; MS Research Australia and Royal Australasian College of Physicians.
  • Co-authored numerous submissions to state and Commonwealth agencies including TGA consultation on regulation of autologous stem cell therapies (2015 and 2016); NHMRC consultation on new resources for GPs (2012); and public consultation on legislation pertaining to the use of human embryos and prohibition of cloning (2005 & 2010).
  • Tanner C, Petersen A, Munsie, M. The hard sell of stem cells: we need a better way to protect patients from harm. The Conversation, 22 September 2016.
  • Pera M, Munsie M, Harvey R. Stem cell therapies are advancing, but will Australian patients be left behind? The Conversation, March 21 2016. Adcroft K, Munsie M, Clancy P. The Science and fiction behind Blade Runner. The Conversation, 28 August 2015.
  • Munsie M Pera M. Cashing in on hope: stem cell tourism risks arrive in our own backyard. The Conversation, 21 January 2015. Petersen A, MacGregor, C, Munsie, M. Stem cell tourism exploits people by marketing hope. The Conversation, 16 July 2016.
  • Munsie M. Buyer beware: the hidden cost of stem cell tourism. The Conversation, 12 July 2012.
  • Tanner C, Petersen, A, Munsie, M. The hard sell of stem cells: we need a better way to protect patients from harm. Australian Doctor, 26 September 2016.
  • Herbert K, Elefanty A, Skinner R and Munsie M (2011) Stem cell therapies. Two part series on stem cells and their clinical application in the How to Treat section of the Australian Doctor. Republished in 2011 Yearbook.

Research Publications

  • Petersen A, Munsie M, Tanner C, McGregor C, Brophy J. (2016). Stem cell tourism: Hope, expectations and new technologies. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Martin D, Munsie M (2016) Blindspots and boundaries: Exploring the role and ethical responsibilities of facilitators of stem cell tourism. In: S Lundin, C Krolokke, E Muller & M Peterson (Eds) Global Bodies in Grey Zones: Health, Hope, Biotechnology. African Sun Media, Stellenbosch, South Africa.
  • Petersen A, MacGregor C, Munsie M. Stem cell miracles or Russian roulette?: patients’ use of digital media to campaign for access to clinically unproven treatments, Health, Risk and Society 2016; 17(7-8): 592-604.
  • MacGregor C, McCaughey T, Munsie M, PĂ©bay A, Hewitt A.W (2016) The immortal life of ethics? The alienation of body tissue, ethics and the informed consent procedure within induced pluripotent stem cell research. In RM Shaw (Ed.) Bioethics Beyond Altruism: Donating and Transforming Biological Materials. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • MacCaughey T, Chen C, De Smit E, Rees G, Fenwick E, Kearns L, Mackey DA, MacGregor C, Munsie M, Cook AL, Pebay A, Hewitt AW. Participant understanding and recall of informed consent for induced pluripotent stem cell biobanking. Cell and Tissue Banking 2016; 17(3): 449-56.
  • Daley GQ, Hyun I, Apperley JF, Barker RA, Benvenisty N, Bredenoord AL, Breuer CK, Caulfield T, Cedars MI, Frey-Vasconcells J, Heslop HE, Jin Y, Lee RT, McCabe C, Munsie M, Murry CE, Piantadosi S, Rao M, Rooke HM, Sipp D, Studer L, Sugarman J, Takahashi M, Zimmerman M, Kimmelman J. (2016) Setting Global Standards for Stem Cell Research and Clinical Translation: The 2016 ISSCR Guidelines. Stem Cell Reports 2016; pii: S2213-6711(16): 30041-8.
  • MacCaughey T et al. (2016) An interactive multimedia approach to improving informed consent for induced pluripotent stem cell research. Cell Stem Cell 2016; 18(3): 307-8.
  • Pera MF, de Wert G, Dondorp W, Lovell-Badge R, Mummery CL, Munsie M and Tam PP (2015) What if stem cells turn into embryos in a dish? Nat Methods 2015; 12(10): 917-9.
  • Munsie M et al. An Interactive Multimedia Approach to Improving Informed Consent for Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Research.  Cell Stem Cell.  18
  • Tanner C, Munsie M. (2014) Seeing the full picture: The hidden cost of the stem cell and regenerative medicine revolution in Pebay, A. (Ed) Regenerative Biology of the Eye: Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine: 291-304. New York: Humana Press, Springer.
  • Petersen A, Tanner C, Munsie M. Between hope and evidence: How community advisors demarcate the boundary between legitimate and illegitimate stem cell treatments. Health: An interdisciplinary journal for the social study of health, illness and medicine 201419(2): 188-206.
  • Petersen A, Seear K, Munsie, M. (2014) Therapeutic journeys: the hopeful travails of stem cell tourists. Sociology of Health and Illness 2014; 36(5): 670-685.
  • Munsie M, Pera M. Regulatory loophole enables unproven autologous cell therapies to thrive in Australia. Stem Cells and Development 2014; 23 (Suppl 1): 34-8.
  • Munsie M, Hyun I. (2014) A question of ethics: Selling autologous stem cell therapies flaunts professional standards. Stem Cell Research 2014; 13(3 Pt B): 647-53.
  • Seear K, Petersen A, Munsie, M, Skinner, R. (2010) Hopeful Journeys: Experiences of Stem Cell Treatments Offered Outside Australia. Final Report, August. Report prepared for National Enabling Technologies Strategy, Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (DIISR). School of Political and Social Inquiry.
  • Munsie M.J. Mountford P, Nichols, J. (2006) Transgenic systems in nuclear reprogramming. In: S. Pells (Ed) Methods in Molecular Biology: Nuclear Reprogramming. The Humana Press Inc,   New Jersey. 325:115-28.